While the Islamist threat to the Vatican was widely publicized, less attention was paid to the Vatican response. Any attack on the person of the pope or Catholic holy sites would be met by “massive, disproportionate retaliation,” warned Monsignor Arcimboldo Bugiardo, Prefect of the Congregation for Armaments, speaking to this reporter behind one of the pillars of Bernini’s famed Colonnade, which surrounds St. Peter’s Square. “These people have no idea who they’re screwing with,” he said.
Msgr. Bugiardo would neither confirm nor deny widespread reports that the Vatican city-state has acquired an independent nuclear deterrent--purchased, sources suggest, from Eastern-rite Catholic Ukrainians in 1992, at the insistence of the hawkish Pope John Paul II. “I have nothing to say about that,” the priest said. “I am definitely not saying that under the right circumstances, the dome of St. Peter’s could open up like a missile silo. That is not what I’m saying,” he said.